How to maximize IHG points

Two women in hotel, learning about IHG rewards pointsImage: Two women in hotel, learning about IHG rewards points
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As one of the largest hotel brands in the world, the IHG® Rewards program is an excellent option for both casual and frequent travelers alike.

The IHG Rewards program allows you to book award stays at nearly 6,000 IHG properties in 100 countries. As a member, you’ll get access to discounted member rates, no blackout dates on free nights, free Wi-Fi and more.

While IHG points aren’t as valuable as most other travel rewards program points and miles, they’re easy to earn, especially if you have an IHG-branded credit card.

How to earn IHG Rewards points

There are a few ways you can earn IHG points.

Get the IHG credit card

The best way to earn IHG points is through an IHG co-branded credit card. Currently, there’s only one such card that’s open to new applications: the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.

When you first open an account, you’ll earn 125,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. According to Credit Karma point valuations, IHG Rewards Club points are worth 0.41 cents apiece on average, so that bonus is worth roughly $512.50.

The card also offers up to 25 points per $1 spent at IHG hotels and resorts. That’s 10 points for being a cardholder, up to 10 points for being an IHG Rewards member and up to five points for being a Platinum Elite member — which comes with the card and also offers other excellent perks.

When you use your IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you’ll also earn two points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants, plus one point per $1 spent on everything else. 

Another big benefit of the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is an anniversary award stay worth up to 40,000 points, which you’ll get every year when you renew your card membership and pay the $89 annual fee. And as long as you hold the card, you’ll get your fourth night’s stay free when you redeem, which can save you some points.

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Stay at IHG hotels

Without using an IHG credit card, IHG Rewards members earn up to 10 points per $1 spent at most IHG-branded hotels. The only exceptions are Candlewood Suites and Staybridge Suites, where you’ll earn five points per $1.

The loyalty program also occasionally runs promotions allowing you to earn bonus points or discounted room rates.

Join the IHG Rewards Dining program

With the IHG Rewards Club Dining program, you can earn up to eight points per $1 spent when you eat at participating restaurants. There are more than 10,000 participating restaurants nationwide, giving you plenty of options.

Book other travel through IHG

You can earn bonus IHG rewards points when you book rental cars with Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty — as long as you book the reservation through IHG.

With Hertz, you’ll receive 1,500 bonus points plus 125 or 500 points per day, depending on your elite status level. With Dollar and Thrifty, you’ll get 125 points per day, regardless of your membership level.

You can also earn 1,000 bonus points every time you book an activity through IHG Trip Extras.

How to redeem IHG Rewards points

IHG Rewards points are worth 0.41 cents apiece on average, though the value of your points can vary depending on how you redeem them.

As with most hotel rewards programs, the best way to redeem your IHG Rewards points is to book award stays. Using points only, you can book reward nights starting at 10,000 points. If you don’t have that many points, you can mix points and cash starting at 5,000 points.

If you have the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, the best way to maximize your points on award stays is to use them on stays of four or more nights, so you get the fourth night free.

For example, say you find a hotel which charges 20,000 points or $116 per night. Without the card, a four-night stay would cost you 80,000 points and give you a redemption rate of 0.58 cents per point. But with the card, you’ll use 60,000 points to book the room, and your redemption rate jumps to 0.77 cents per point.

You can also redeem your IHG Rewards points for things like merchandise, experiences, gift cards, a TSA PreCheck membership and digital rewards. You can also gift your points to another IHG member or donate them to a charitable organization.

Take note: IHG points expire after 12 months of no activity in your IHG Rewards account unless you’re an elite status member. So if you have the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card or you’ve achieved elite status another way, you’re off the hook. Otherwise, make sure you earn or redeem IHG points at least once a year to avoid forfeiting them.

Next steps

If you’re interested in opening a free IHG Rewards account, the next step is learning about the various elite status levels IHG offers, so you can take advantage of perks like enhanced room upgrades, priority check-in, late checkout and no blackout nights.

About the author: Ben Luthi is a personal finance freelance writer and credit cards expert. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and finance from Brigham Young University. In addition to Credit Karma, you can find his wo… Read more.